BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Neelam Mughal

Bar photos, flash or no flash?

Need advice urgently!
Fashion shoot in a Bar -
I've recently been approached by a small magazine company after they saw my work and offered me the Fashion Photographers position. Unfortunately, although they are aware... I have just started serious photography. My studio photos come out great but my first shoot is going to be in a bar. Therefore minimal lights, neons and spotlights. I'm working with 4 models who will be spread across the bar, all models have to be in full focus and all the clothes etc must be visible as its a fashion shoot. I've never taken photos other than in my little studio! I'm just a beginner and very young but dont want to lose this amazing opportunity! I'm completely stuck on this shoot. Basically, do I use a flash? if so what type? Will I need a tripod for the shoot? and how do I set up my lighting? Will I need to use refectors too? And someone mentioned I need a slow shutter speed... anyone happy to help ellaborate please!?

Neelam Mughal

To love this question, log in above
8/19/2004 4:37:13 PM

Pamela K
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/21/2004
  I've never taken photos in a bar, but if the focus is the clothes and not the bar atmosphere, then I'd recommend a flash. Slow shutter speed with no flash would be good if you were trying to capture the atmosphere. It seems like the lighting would be too low to get good shots of the clothing without a flash.

If you have time, go to a couple of bars and practice taking shots of the patrons or of a friend who will model for you. Try different exposure times and aperature settings. Try it with and without flash.

If you don't have time before hand, I recommend bracketing your shots if you have time during the shoot. If the models are there and gone too quickly to bracket, then you'll have to depend on the exposure settings that you know from your studio. Use the flash and stage lights if you can. Try to make the lighting as close as possible to your studio.

What kind of camera do you have?

Hope this helps. Maybe someone who's done fashion shoots will jump in with some more specific advice. I've only ever photographed friends in low light situations, like bars. Flash definitely helps!


To love this comment, log in above
8/19/2004 9:10:43 PM

Neelam Mughal   Hi Pamela,

Thanks a lot for your help! It's great to find out everyones opinion and i'm only 20 so im still learning! I'll definately practice what you've said... I only have till tuesday! I'm a nervous wreck! Oh I have a Nikon D70 Digital.

Thank again!


To love this comment, log in above
8/20/2004 4:59:11 AM

Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
  Hello, Neelam. Congrats on landing the job! I'm no fashion photographer, but I thought I'd add my 2 cents as well. If you don't have an external flash, I'd be inclined to tell you not to use your on-camera flash. The on-camera flash is very unflattering to people. I've never seen a shot of people taken with on-camera flash that looked good. It causes glare on the skin and the dreaded red-eye. Also, if your models are going to be sitting at different distances from the camera, it will provide uneven lighting (the models closer to the camera will be brighter, and the farther ones will be darker). You may be able to pull it off with an external flash or a lighting setup, but I have no expertise in that area.

I think the available light in the bar would also work if you used a long enough shutter speed. It's true that their clothes might not be ideally illuminated, but fashion photography doesn't seem to be about the clothes anymore anyway. I mean, look at Versace and Abercrombie's ads-- naked people for goodness sake. It seems to be more about a lifestyle and attitude they want to convey.

Like I said, I'm no fashion photographer, but that's just my two cents! And I'm in my 20's also (23 to be exact)... don't be intimidated at all by age. In fact, I think it helps us, as we learn very quickly and are more apt to experiment.

Good luck!

To love this comment, log in above
8/20/2004 7:20:20 AM

Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
  Oh yeah, and if you don't use any kind of flash, you would need a longer shutter speed. In the bar, the lighting is low, so the camera's shutter needs to stay open longer to let more light in. In that case, you'll definitely have to have a tripod and a remote shutter release to ensure the sharpest shots (no camera shake). Feel free to email me if you have any questions about that.


To love this comment, log in above
8/20/2004 7:23:53 AM


BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  Congrats on landing the job. Now what?

I would say that most photographers probably shoot out of their league at one point or another. You get so caught up in getting the gig, that you don't think about what happens if you actually get it.

Welcome! You will now learn the art of "winging it".

Rent some flash equipment and do a trial. tell the person at the shop what you are trying to do and they will probably recommend something for you. I would recommend something like a Quantum Q-Flash. You don't need a wireless set up, although that would be best.

I think the D70 has E-TTL capability. If that's the case, try to get a Q-Flash, or Sunpack, or something similar that has E-TTL capability. If you can't get that, you have to go to manual mode. If you go manual, you just need a good meter for the flash.

For shooting for fashion, it is very in to cross-process your film, of course you are doing digital, so adding that effect to the final "prints" might be a good idea to get that magazine look. It's high saturation of the colors. I would slightly overexpose, by about 2/3 of a stop, the saturate the hell out of the colors. this is great for fashion and is used all the time.

You will need an assistant. Because you also will want a reflector or two position to throw light around, depending on where the model are placed.

Be creative. Take lots of time. Shoot lots of shots. If they try to rush you, tell them do they want the shot done right, or not. Shoot a few of one pose, then change your angle slightly and shoot a few more, do this 4 or 5 times. I don't believe in bracketing, but if it makes you feel better, go ahead.

I would also do a whole series of non-flash. Try to pick up as much natural light as you can via reflectors and careful positioning of the models. I would do this later in the shoot once I was confident that I got the shots using flash.

Again, since you're using digital, you'll know pretty quickly if you have the shot or not.

I don't use tripods very often, because they inhibit my ability to make slight adjustments at the last minute. But, that's just because I move quickly. I'm by no means a slow methodical photographer. I'm a bit hyper, and shoot very quickly. I do this for two reasons. One, I like to capture people as they are...before they settle in to a pose. I constanly move them and have them twisting and changing that I don't left them slouch or pose too much. the other reason is that I don't believe that most people like getting their pictures taken, although I do think that most people like having their pictures after they are done. So, I try to move very quickly and efficiently.

Lastly, the most important thing is to make your models feel relaxed and comfortable. Even if you have no clue as to what you are doing, they wont know that. So, just take your time, smile alot, joke, laugh, and make everyone feel at ease. You are on stage and everyone is watching you for visual cues. If you are tense or stressed, so will your models be.


To love this comment, log in above
8/20/2004 12:15:30 PM

Neelam Mughal   Hi everyone!

Thank you everyone! Its been great having so many replies... I was getting worried earlier when no-one responded and now you'r flooding me! Everyones advice has been So helpful and i'm feeling a lot more confident... still got a few days to go so fingers crossed and hopefully it goes well. I'll try and pop some photos on here after wednesday! Thanks again!


To love this comment, log in above
8/21/2004 11:51:20 AM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.